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The Historical Regional Cuisines Of Italy - Abruzzo Part VI

Updated on March 29, 2009

Very popular among the products offered by the marvelous region of Abruzzo are those of the pasture, especially the cheeses: scamorze, caciocavalli, and pecorini are the cheeses which offer perhaps the most memorable flavorsof the inland areas and mountains. A stay on the coast, which in recent decades has had a major influx of both domestic and national tourism, brings the flavor of the sea: blue fish primarily, but also molluscs and crustaceans, as well as the extraordinary tiny mullet called "Agostinelli" which are preferably cooked simply by breading them in flour, tossing them in hot oil and savoring them sizzling from the skillet.

The soupy local bouillabaises known as "brodetti" are popular throughout the Abruzzi region and, as in the Romagna and Marche, each locality has its variation on the basic theme of Adriatic fish soup. The two most famous are those of Vasto and Pescara: the first is more simple and homely, and the Pescara version is more refined and spicy as merits its major urban status. The fish during the cooking, must remain whole as the recipe strictly dictates so it is of paramount importance to limit manipulation to meticulously careful interventions with spoons, ladles etc. Another rule is to keep the pan ("tiella") always covered with a tight fitting lid and brought to the table to be exposed under the eyes and nostrils of the guests to be intoxicated by the fragrant steam of the soup.

In Pescara in particular, but in all locations on the coast generally, in addition to the fish there are always new opportunities to experience other dishes of great interest such as "scrippelle" (stuffed crepes) in broth or with truffle, the Mazzarello lamb, and the "baccala mollicato" a soft codfish, first boiled and then sauteed partially in the pan to finish cooking with the addition of garlic, olive oil, parsley, and oregano. In the traditional monkfish tail with rosemary, a typical dish of the Pescarese area, the fish is cut into slices that are cooked slowly with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, with the inevitable addition of red chili pepper. Other popular specialties are the sole with small olives cooked with garlic, parsley, and lemon juice; and mullet stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic and minced rosemary.

The Abruzzese meal always ends with desserts that are often made with almonds and nuts, such as the "torroni" which are nougats made with chocolate or dried figs, and the confetti which are a famous specialty of Sulmona. The "parrozzo" which is a specialty of Pescara, is a sweet made of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, almonds and covered with chocolate.

Abruzzese cuisine is varied to the point of being dazzling, with specialty dishes such as "Timballo Di Maccheroni Alla Chitarra Avvolto Da Una Fine Crespella" which can only be described as a breaded "crabcake" type of fritter made out of pasta and twisted around like a Dairy Queen curley cue top; "Vellutata A Modo Mio" which literally means a cream of leeks and potatoes "Done My Way"; and two dishes whose names defy description: “Tagliatelle Benito Mussolini”, less said about that one the better, and "Pappardelle Al Sugo Di Papera Muta" which is pasta with a sauce made from a mute duck! Every city, every village, even every corner of the countryside has its specialties, its flavors, and a tradition passed along for centuries. That is what makes Abruzzese cuisine so hearty, memorable, and delectable.

Continued in Basilicata Part I

Check out the entire tour of Italy's Historical Regional Cuisines!

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